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  • Writer's pictureRestore Similkameen Partner

Raft trip organized by MVCC provides salmon-eye view of Similkameen River


Perspective check on Enloe Dam’s future, fish habitat

Even when the water in the Similkameen River is so low that large boulders are covered by just a few inches of water, there are stretches of whitewater and spirited rapids as the river winds through dramatic canyons northwest of Oroville.

It’s especially eye-opening to travel the river and see how it changes as you near Enloe Dam, where the river becomes a flat, languid pool. Starting about 1 1/2 miles upstream of the dam, the river is more like a bathtub, barely moving, full of silt and 7 feet deep.

A 3-mile raft trip last week gave 18 people — biologists, elected officials, interested community members, tribal representatives and river enthusiasts — an up-close view of the Similkameen River.

Organized by the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) and led by Methow Rafting, the trip was a chance for people to gain new perspectives as efforts are underway to study the impacts of Enloe Dam, particularly on salmon — and to look at the feasibility of removing it. Bringing people together on the ground enables them to see the situation for themselves and connect around complex issues in a way that doesn’t happen in meetings, MVCC Program Director Lorah Super said.

The Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD), which owns the dam, has recently lent its support to a study of the feasibility and ramifications of dam removal (see story on page A3). The PUD was invited to join the raft trip but declined, Super said.

Enloe Dam hasn’t produced hydropower in more than 50 years. The PUD had been pursuing re-energization, but in 2018 the commissioners determined that producing electricity at Enloe wasn’t economically viable. Since then, the PUD has kept up with maintenance and safety inspections at the dam.

Some local residents and conservation groups have been advocating removal of the dam for decades. In recent years, tribes in the United States and Canada officially lent their support to efforts to take out the dam and restore the Similkameen.


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